The COVID-19 coronavirus emergency gives Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a non-political excuse for stepping back from the plan that his envoy, Andriy Yermak, accepted from Russian presidential envoy Dmitry Kozak on March 11 in the Minsk Contact Group. The plan would institute a Consultative Council, parallel to the Minsk Contact Group, on the conflict in eastern Ukraine. This innovation would, in fact, change the existing negotiating format even further in Moscow’s favor.
The agreement on this plan was to be finalized and signed officially during the Minsk Contact Group meeting on March 24-26. However, the coronavirus pandemic apparently necessitated switching the session to the video-conference mode. And while the video conversation was in progress, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, Oleksiy Reznikov, came out to announce that “any signing would be physically impossible by videoconference.”